Pity the poor scrivner fated to write of Avid Birder trips in the depths of January. How to tell of the bone-numbing cold – yes, of cold toes, cold hands, cold noses? And how many synonyms are there for “cold” anyway: frigid, freezing, frozen, Arctic, icy? Words such as “chilly” or “cool” surely are insufficient for the purpose.

Our usual recorder of Avids events, Bill Whan, was under the weather on this cold (here we go again) January day. His mastery of the writing craft doubtless would enable him to carry off the task. Ah well, needs must when the devil drives, so I will do my best.

About ten of us gathered that day on what felt like the Siberian tundra of the Worthington Mall parking lot for the drive to our usual and best gulling locations. And, truth be told, there was some enthusiasm for the project, as rare and wondrous – well, rare anyway – gulls already had been reported from the Cleveland area. Thus it was that even the 2 ½ hour drive in the dark did not dampen our spirits. Of course, it helped that all of the cars had fully operational heaters.

We first stopped along the way at Rocky River to pick up a few winter passerines at the cemetery.  A few mergansers and other water birds were found at the nearby lakefront park, but these did not detain us long. Arriving at the parking lot by lakefront docks near East 72nd Street, we were as one in our reluctance to leave the vehicles, so we started examining the huge flocks of gulls while still seated. We quickly realized that we were off to a good start, locating a lesser black-backed gull…and another…and another…and…hey, what’s going on here? We were up to three of this often difficult to find species and we had not even turned to the major concentrations of birds offshore from the nearby power plant. We also found an immature glaucous-winged gull before we decided that it was indeed time to move down the lakefront a bit.

Conditions were very good for gulling, which means that they were fairly lousy for normal human activities: a breeze (cold, of course) off the water, ice offshore to concentrate gulls near us (and keep us cold), high but heavy overcast to keep down the glare (and prevent that pesky sunshine from warming us), and plenty of snow on the ground. Did I mention that it was cold, the kind of cold that seeps through your boots to numb your feet after a few hours of standing on cold concrete?

Stand we did, scanning for those birds that might be just a bit different from the thousands of herring, ring-billed, and Bonaparte’s gulls sitting on the water or flying about in front of us. Cold notwithstanding, we were rewarded with glaucous, Iceland, and lesser black-backed gulls in a remarkable variety of plumages.

All gull things must come to an end, so we eventually headed for Lorain to see if anything new had shown up there. With little stirring other than lots more of the common gull species, we made our way to the Wellington Reservoir.  Here we were able to study good numbers of wintering waterfowl, including lovely collections of redheads, canvasbacks, and goldeneyes. As the light was fading, we made a quick stop at Findley State Park, but the feeders there were empty of both seed and birds.

The list is not long, as is to be expected in an Ohio January, but our gull and waterfowl numbers were impressive.

Mute Swan
Canada Goose
Gadwall
Mallard
American Black Duck
Canvasback
Redhead
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Bufflehead
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull (at least 200 at E. 72nd street)
Glaucous Gull (at least 6 for the day)
Iceland Gull (at least 4 for the day)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (at least 4 for the day)
American Herring Gull
Bonaparte’s Gull
Rock Pigeon
Morning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
American Crow
European Starling
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow